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Published on January 6th, 2016 | by FII Reader

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2015 was the safest year ever according to provisional data

On 1st January, the Aviation Safety Network (ASN), released the preliminary 2015 airliner accident statistics, showing a record low total of 16 fatal accidents, resulting in 560 fatalities involving aircraft classified as ‘airliners’. This was despite several high profile accidents. Not only did 2015 turn out to be a very safe year for commercial aviation, it was the safest year ever, by number of fatal accidents, and the 5th safest year ever in terms of fatalities. Given the expected worldwide air traffic of 34,000,000 flights, the accident rate represents one fatal passenger flight accident per 4,857,000 flights.

The ASN is an independent organisation located in the Netherlands. Founded in 1996, its aim IS to provide everyone with a (professional) interest in aviation with up-to-date, complete and reliable authoritative information on airliner accidents and safety issues.

The low number of accidents comes as no surprise, according to ASN President Harro Ranter: “Since 1997 the average number of airliner accidents has shown a steady and persistent decline, for a great deal thanks to the continuing safety-driven efforts by international aviation organisations such as ICAO, IATA, Flight Safety Foundation and the aviation industry.”

The tail section of the Metrojet A321 EI-ETJ ( APA)

The tail section of the Metrojet A321 EI-ETJ ( APA)

While no aircraft involving an Irish operator was involved in any of the 2015 fatal incidents, ironically the worst accident last year involved an Irish registered aircraft, a Metrojet Airbus A321, EI-ETJ, which crashed in the Sinai Desert, killing 224 happened on 31st October. While investigation is still ongoing, it is claimed that the accident occurred as a result of the detonation of an explosion device. However, the preliminary report by Egypt’s Civil Aviation Authority has been recently completed and has been sent to ICAO as well as all participants in the investigation. The investigation has extended 16km from the main wreckage site. The forensic medicine group is awaiting DNA probes from Russia to identify victims. Extensive photos using an advanced 3D camera have been taken; metallurgy examination of the wreckage has been initiated. The flight data recorder has been read out and contains all flights of the five days prior to the crash, in addition a total of 38 computers on board were removed from the wreckage and taken for detailed examination. The maintenance group is checking all maintenance records going back to 1997. The press release by Egypt’s CAA concludes: “up to date the committee did not receive any information indicating unlawful interference; consequently the committee continues its work regarding the technical investigation.”

Germanwings A320 D-AIPX crash site

Germanwings A320 D-AIPX crash site

This accident represents the dark side of 2015, together with the accident involving Germanwings flight 9525, operated by Airbus A320-211, D-AIPX. The A320 crashed in France on 25th March and is likely attributed to pilot suicide. As a direct result of the Germanwings incident, a panel of experts led by Europe’s aviation safety regulator, recommended in July, improved psychological screening for new pilots, and called for the creation of a European database with details of medical visits plus better support networks to reduce the risks of a similar tragedy. In addition Germany is planning legislation requiring random drug and alcohol testing of pilots in an attempt to reduce the risk of a repeat of this type of incident following a recommendation of a task-force set up by the Transport Ministry. Nevertheless, a spokesman for German pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit, Markus Wahl, was critical of the proposal. “From our point of view the planned random tests are completely wrong. They have nothing to do with the Germanwings disaster and will put an entire professional group under general suspicion” according to press reports of his comments.

While these were the only incidents involving commercial jet airliners, just three previous years (1988, 1983, and 1985) show a higher death toll of accidents (likely) attributed to sabotage, shoot downs and pilot suicide.

Looking at the rest of the incidents, two each involved Swearingen SA226 Metros (C-GSKC and XA-UKP), Let L-410s (OM-SAB and OM-ODQ following a mid-air collision), de Havilland Canada DHC-3s (N270PA and N928RK), or Cessna 208B Grand Caravans (PR-MIC and C-FKDL). There were single hull losses involving a Beechcraft 1900C (YV1674), a de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 (PK-BRM), an ATR 72-600 (B-22816 and an ATR 42-300 (PK-YRN). These latter two aircraft accounted for 97 of the fatalities.

Airbus A400M Atlas military transporter crash site

Airbus A400M Atlas military transporter crash site

Also included were accidents involving an Airbus A400M Atlas military transporter (EC-403), which crashed near Seville Airport, Spain, during a test flight, with the loss of four of the six crew and an Antonov 12BK (EY-406), Involving 41 fatalities, which crashed shortly after take-off from Juba Airport, South Sudan.: Not surprisingly, two out of 16 accident airplanes were operated by airlines on the E.U. ‘black list’.

Further information is contained in the following ASN infographic.

ASN Infographic, Airliner accidents in 2015

ASN Infographic, Airliner accidents in 2015

Statistics are based on a selection of worldwide fatal accidents involving civil aircraft with a minimum capacity of 14 passengers.

ASN is an exclusive service of the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF). The figures have been compiled using the airliner accident database of the Aviation Safety Network, the Internet leader in aviation safety information. The Aviation Safety Network uses information from authoritative and official sources.

Article by Michael Whelan.

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